In an unintentionally funny aside in an article at Forbes.com, a guy named Richard Salsman (who runs an investment research firm) condemns nullification in the most uncomprehending words — and as someone who’s written a book on the subject, I can tell you this is quite a feat.
(If you are unfamiliar with nullification, here’s what it’s all about.)
He tells us: “Such hostility to the judiciary today isn’t found only in Mr. Obama and his ilk or in the Democratic Party, but also in the Jeffersonian libertarians, as is obvious in the works of Thomas Woods and Andrew Napolitano, which defend the Jeffersonian notion of ‘nullification’ (a loopy, anarchic idea that says juries, legislators, and executive branch officials can decide on their own what’s constitutional, and thus can ignore, defy or nullify’ rulings by courts and judges).”
So he speaks of this “loopy” idea without once using the word “states”! This is his level of knowledge. Juries is one thing — there he’s just confusing state nullification with jury nullification, which of course (as I note in my 33 Questions) the Founding Fathers also supported. But legislators and executive branch officials? Does he mean federal or state? He never says. If federal, then he is confusing nullification with concurrent review, another Jeffersonian position. (Concurrent review holds that all three branches, not just the judicial, have a responsibility to determine the constitutionality of proposed federal activities.) And of course if he means federal, then one might cite both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln as fairly well known fellows who had a different view from that of Richard Salsman.
If he means state officials he’s closer to the truth, but he explains the idea like a propagandist. I’d say Salsman is a Hobbesian and that that’s where the mental block is coming from, but I see no evidence he has thought about serious things long enough to have a political philosophy, apart from never wanting to say anything that might fall outside the sacred Biden/Romney spectrum.
(Incidentally, a word of advice for Richard: calling an idea “loopy” is a case of exceedingly poor writing. Mencken wouldn’t have used sledgehammer prose like that. It’s like calling your opponent’s article a “screed.” Fingernails on a chalkboard.)
Richard, you be sure and let me know when you can answer my longstanding replies to objections. It is cruel of you to tantalize us with the one statement about nullification. Your insights into U.S. history are anxiously awaited.
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